A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the facts:
CLAIM: Salzburg Airport in Austria has a help desk specifically for people who intended to fly to Australia.
THE FACTS: The European airport confirmed it does not have a desk for absent-minded holiday makers who set out for Sydney but wind up thousands of miles away in Salzburg. The misconception stems from a technology company advertisement that ran on a baggage carousel at the airport, which joked about offering such a service. The claim has delighted social media users in recent days, with one post on X, formerly known as Twitter, racking up more than 18,000 likes. “If you’re having a bad day, just remember that the airport in Salzburg, Austria has a counter for people who flew to Austria instead of Australia,” reads another post on Facebook. Some shared an image of a large sign that reads in part: “Sorry, this is Austria not Australia! Need help? Please press the button.” But Salzburg Airport said on Monday in a Facebook post written in German that no such counter or button exists and that the sign seen in some of the posts is actually an advertisement for Commend, an Austrian communication and security technology company. Indeed, the sign also includes the address of Commend’s website and reads: “Commend provides Security and Communication. From Salzburg to the rest of the world. Even for the most unlikely of situations.” Wolfgang Peer, a spokesperson for Commend International, confirmed to The Associated Press that the advertisement was real, but had been discontinued in 2022. “The briefing was to initiate a direct dialog between the passengers who see the board and the Commend brand and its Intercom products,” he wrote in an email. “Above all, it was to contain a witty message, with a certain wink.” He added: “An Austrian very often answers in English to the question where he comes from with: ‘From Austria, but there are no kangaroos in Austria.’”
— Associated Press writer Melissa Goldin in New York contributed this report.
CLAIM: Yemen has declared war against Israel.
THE FACTS: Yemen’s internationally recognized government has not declared war on Israel. Houthi rebels that control the country’s capital launched missiles at Israeli targets this week and threatened further attacks, but experts say the Iran-backed militia stopped short of declaring an all-out war. Social media users made the claim while sharing a video of a military leader dressed in combat fatigues speaking in Arabic. “BREAKING: YEMEN DECLARED THEY ARE NOW AT WAR WITH ISRAEL,” wrote one user who shared the brief clip in a post on X, formerly Twitter. But Yemen’s official government did no such thing. The Houthis, a rebel group that controls the national capital of Sanaa, announced Tuesday that it had launched missiles and drones at Israel. Israel’s military said its fighter jets and missile defense system intercepted the salvos outside of Israeli territory. The Houthi military said Wednesday it fired another batch of drones towards Israeli targets “in support of the oppressed Palestinian people.” But the Republic of Yemen, the country’s internationally-recognized government, is led by the Presidential Leadership Council, explained Thomas Juneau, a professor at the University of Ottawa in Canada who specializes in Yemen. That government, which has no relations with the Houthis, splits its time between Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital, and Aden, in southern Yemen. “The Houthis are the de facto authority in Sanaa, the capital, but it is indeed inaccurate to say that ‘Yemen’ (or the Republic of Yemen) has declared war on Israel,” Juneau wrote in an email Wednesday. Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy, agreed, adding that while the rocket and drone strikes are a significant escalation, the rebel group’s statement stops short of committing to an all-out effort to destroy Israel. Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree, a spokesperson for the Iran-backed militia, said in a televised statement that the rebel army would launch other strikes at Israel until it halted its attacks on Palestinian territories, which came in response to Hamas’ surprise attack on Oct. 7. “It implies that if Israel stops bombing Gaza they will halt attacking Israel,” Riedel wrote in an email Wednesday, referring to the Hamas-controlled Palestinian territory that has received the brunt of Israel’s attacks. Officials with Yemen’s embassy in Washington didn’t respond to emails seeking comment Wednesday.
— Associated Press writers Philip Marcelo in New York and Jon Gambrell in Dubai contributed this report.
CLAIM: A new video shows a historic meeting between the leaders of North Korea and South Korea at their border, but the mainstream media isn’t covering it.
THE FACTS: The clip is more than 5 years old and shows a moment that was captured by news outlets from across the world. Nevertheless, a popular social media post claimed the media is so transfixed by conflicts roiling the world that outlets are ignoring a momentous moment in global peace and diplomacy: a meeting of the two rival leaders of the Koreas. The post includes a video that shows the leaders of North Korea and South Korea smiling as they shake hands and walk together along the demilitarized zone separating the nations. “New history: Kim Jong Un shakes hands with South Korean leader as they both cross borders for the first time,” reads the text over the video that was widely shared on TikTok and other social media platforms in recent days. “History made again. This gave me chills,” reads a caption above the post on Facebook, which has been liked more than 17,000 times. “You won’t see this on the television or hear about it on the radio. We the people all across the (world) want peace not war!” But the historic moment isn’t new: it happened in 2018 and didn’t go unnoticed by news outlets at the time. The Associated Press and many other media companies covered the event, which marked the first time a North Korean leader crossed into South Korea since the end of the Korean War in 1953, which separated the once-united country. In fact, the widely shared clip comes from The Guardian’s coverage of the April 26, 2018, meeting. The British news outlet’s logo is clearly seen at the start of the video. At one point in the video, the two leaders can even be seen holding their pose and smiling for the cameras as they shake hands. The meeting took place in Panmunjom, the village in the demilitarized zone, or DMZ, where the armistice ending the Korean War was signed decades ago. The carefully coordinated interactions between Kim and then-South Korean President Moon Jae-in were captured in photos and videos, though their private conversations were largely inaudible, the AP reported at the time.
— Philip Marcelo.